#2045| To world enough, and time

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Illustration: Shane Lim for Her World
A version of this piece was published in Her World’s 2020 February issue for their Modern Love column. Many thanks to Hayley and team for housing it – you can get the issue in stores now. x

Reader,

I write to you from across the seas. Between us there is everything: the North Atlantic Ocean, the Philippine Sea, the Laccadive, the Arabian.. my dreams, and my ambition.

From young this has defined me: pools and pools of ambition, that I have alternatively swam and struggled in. I was terrified of waking up one day to find that I had wasted my life: and so I threw myself into work, trying to write my way into a life I found meaningful. I was raised in the age of change, where Hollywood romances had started to peter off into slogans of female independence, critical essays questioning the status quo of a life lived prioritizing the couple over the individual. As a result, I saw a relationship as a likely death sentence to the pursuit of individual dreams, a lifetime of half-compromises. Where would I find a partner who would be okay with all the things that I wanted? And yet, six years ago when I met a boy on the eastbound train from NTU, I hoped.

The limit of Shane’s okay has stretched beyond the limits of my expectations. He has been by my side as I researched writing programs, been the first reader and editor for any story I write, the organizing principle to the chaos of my mind. He does this while maintaining a life, a career, an artistic practice that is separate from mine, from our relationship. In the past six years, my work as a travel host took me all over the world in short bursts, rehearsals in being apart, and yet he never once complained as I tried to figure out where my life was going. He was, and has been, more supportive than I could’ve ever dreamed. Still, when I called him one evening last year with news of my acceptance to Columbia, I was afraid. Surely this is it, I thought, surely now is when he goes, alright, I just want a girlfriend who is present, is that so much to ask?

Instead, he asked me to marry him. Two months before I flew, what I thought was a birthday celebration for a girlfriend* turned out to be an elaborate proposal, a six act theatrical experience based on a play he wrote. And then it dawned on me: this two-year long-distance relationship I imposed upon us both with my individual ambition was not something he secretly resented, nor something he was simply tolerating. It is something he is actively, wholeheartedly committing to.

And so we are engaged, promised to each other. But while a promise suggests future fulfillment, Shane has shown me that a relationship can have space in the present for both parties to grow into their own person, chasing their dreams while always having a home to return to in the other. This should be obvious but it is not always. This distance between us: it is also a promise towards reunion. And although we are physically apart, we know that our endgame is in each other.

Bio

Jemimah Wei is a writer based in New York City, pursuing her MFA in Fiction at Columbia University. Her partner, Shane Lim, depending on who you ask, is either a copywriter, a poet, an illustrator, a best friend to many, an incredibly supportive fiancé to one, or all of the above.

*the same girlfriend from my essay: To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before, published in Her World’s December 2018 issue.

#2043| Pain, pain, and more pain!

For all its optimism 2020 has brought with it carpal tunnel and great lower back pain. I have since been informed that this is my lot, as a writer. I have seen my future and the forecast is ergonomic. I suppose that’s where the next two weeks of lunch money will be going.

x
Jem

#2040| The most wonderful time of the year

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Christmas eve, new york

How rapidly things have changed in just one year. A year ago I had just returned from my stint in London and spent christmas surrounded by the raucous laughter of friends and family, today i am sitting alone in my new apartment in New York, with my five dollar bottle of wine, a candle burning cardamom and vetiver into the air, and Joe Hisaishi’s 25 year concert in the background, making my way steadily through my reading list. Somehow life always knows exactly what you need, and when.

x
Jem

#2031 | The measure of a month

It feels like both a lifetime and barely the first axis of an inhale but the truth is it has only been a month (already been a month) since I moved to New York, where in no order of priority I have:

1. Started school

2. Created the hole of silence wherein my first two weeks reside – which I will one day have to unpick, I know

3. Went into the wine shop only one time and declared loudly (dramatically!) “I have had a long day, and i want something cheap and good.”

4. Replied to the man who tried to sway me in favor of the forty dollar bottle (then you should treat yourself, girl!) definitively, confrontationally, firmly – “I am a broke student and your country is making me hemorrhage money, show me the cheapest bottle that you would still actually drink!”

5. (Please.) Always affixing the concession after, after the act.

6. Went through eight housemates (some of whom overlap) and two houses.

7. Assassinated eleven goldfish but only in my mind’s invention.

8. Took the uber of a famous-ass youtuber and told him i disapproved of his pranks, then realised how old i sounded, had a minor crisis, shut up, all in the backseat of the uber. Stared out at the skyline in silence. Thought to myself: well, that’s that on that.

9. Turned twenty seven!!!!!!

10. Over the legendary momofuku noodles which I must admit do live up to the ~hype~, interviewed Tash which I am happy about, shot his portrait which I am also happy about. Good lighting and good conversation and good noodles! Interview is up on the Columbia Journal.

11. Bought one zillion second hand things to construct the semblance of a living space

12. Made myself responsible for four houseplants, was given another two. We will see.

13. Read eleven books and wrote none.

14. Sigh.

15. Did I procrastinate?

16. Went 48 hours without talking at one point, which is a minor miracle for me. After that I started talking to myself (not unusual).

17. Felt very attacked when in a lecture, Joshua Cohen when debating the first vs third person said: “If a character talks to themselves all the time, they’d be like, totally crazy!”

18. All of you talk to yourselves too.

19. Tried and failed to get some logistical matters in Singapore settled. Honestly the biggest pain of moving is probably the minor administrative details that slide like grains of dirt under the raw skin of relocation, only to resurface in itches; irritations under scabs, pressing upwards demanding attention, threatening inflammation.

20. Still, I chose this.

x
Jem

#2023| Some important things of late

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Lombok, Indonesia

1. Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse just dropped on Netflix, which is incredible news because it is the best movie in the entire spiderman franchise, and i will fight you on that.

2. I’m now writing for a new horror series which is going into production soon, slated to hit the screens end of this year. Sometimes life just comes at you like – Boo. (!!)

3. We wrapped for NBC’s E! Travel Diaries yesterday, which will be showing in the trans-tasman and southeast asia regions this August. Pretty psyched for this – this shoot was a dream. Great crew, amazing co-hosts, and happily, every last one of them enjoyed a glass of red at the end of a long shoot day. A dream, I say, a dream!

4. I thought I was pretty pleased with the latest iteration of one of my stories, a thai narrative set along the chao praya river, until I read lie with me by philippe besson, a masterpiece which made me ugly-cry. Back to the drawing board i go.

5. On that literary note, I was so very impressed with How We Disappeared by Jing Jing Lee this week, a totally immersive, incredibly beautiful intergenerational story about the ripple effects of trauma inflicted during the Japanese occupation. It follows the story of a comfort woman, but beyond that, explores the heartbreaking consequences that live on in one’s body and society even after escape. Absolutely destroyed me.

x
Jem